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Friday 30 September 2016

Mayo's clean bill of health as they set their sights on Dubs

Brandon Burke (9) from Inchicore has his jersey signed by Dublin footballer John Small at last night’s Dublin ‘Meet and Greet’ with fans at Parnell Park. Photo: Doug O’Connor
Brandon Burke (9) from Inchicore has his jersey signed by Dublin footballer John Small at last night’s Dublin ‘Meet and Greet’ with fans at Parnell Park. Photo: Doug O’Connor

Stephen Rochford has declared a clean bill of health for Mayo's All-Ireland final showdown with Dublin.

Apart from long-term absentee Ger Cafferkey, Rochford has the rare luxury of a fully-fit panel to choose from on September 18.

He brushed aside any lingering question marks about Diarmuid O'Connor, whose state of match-fitness has been questioned by some since his return from the leg injury that forced him to miss their final qualifier outing against Westmeath.

"Diarmuid is alive and well," he said at the Mayo press night. "We've trained three times since the Tipperary game and he's been in all those sessions - as has everyone else. We have 33 fit guys at this moment in time, thank God.

"Going into the Tipp game would have been the same, but Diarmuid was just coming back from missing the Westmeath game."

The year-one boss admitted fitness issues had been "a particular challenge all year. We got back training a little bit later than we would have liked and later than other teams, so we were probably playing bit of catch-up. But thankfully this is the right time of year to have everyone available."

Rochford declared himself "very impressed" by Dublin's semi-final comeback against Kerry, "as was everyone who watched it or was in attendance. But in many ways there wasn't a lot that surprised you in it.

"A team that is undefeated in 27 games between league and championship in two seasons, that level of consistency was evident again in how they came back from the five-point deficit. And it was more evidence of the quality and threats that they have in most corners of the field."

Not surprisingly, he declined to divulge Mayo's tactical approach to Stephen Cluxton's restarts but, harking back to the Dublin skipper's kickout stats against Kerry, he insisted: "Eighteen of 21 is a serious return. Did Kerry win that many of their own kickouts?

Microscope

"Because a score comes off them, it's under the microscope. Or maybe because it's Stephen Cluxton and he has a high ratio in the nineties or 100 per cent from kickouts, it comes under the microscope more ... but 18 of 21 is still quite a result to be getting."

Meanwhile, Cork referee Conor Lane has declared himself "absolutely over the moon" after being appointed to take charge of his first All-Ireland SFC final.

"I'm shocked and delighted," said the 38-year-old whistler from the Banteer/Lyre club. "Once you get a quarter-final, your hat is in the ring and it could go with any of the four referees - it was just my year this year."

Ciarán Branagan from Down will officiate the Kerry/Galway minor decider.

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